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[] LAT 5.09.04 (Blogs) The View From on the Ground,

Liebe Infowar-Liste,
Frage meinerseits, gibt es auch Bundeswehrsoldaten, die aus Afghanistan, 
Kosovo, Bosnien oder vom Horn von Africa berichten? Ich habe noch nichts 
gesehen. Für Infos wäre ich dankbar. Bitte per mail an mich.
Olivier Minkwitz,0,103866.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions
The View From on the Ground
With American bloggers reporting on life in Iraq, the war is only a 
mouse click away

September 5, 2004

Other wars produced poetry and novels and memoirs. But the war in Iraq 
has brought a new kind of literature. In real time, on the Internet, 
officers and enlisted men and women are chronicling the war on weblogs — 
better known as blogs. Two weeks ago, one of the most popular war 
bloggers, a soldier stationed near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul who 
identified himself only as CBFTW, was disciplined by the Army for 
violating "operational security." His gritty postings described both the 
terror and boredom of war. Last week, he removed them from his "My War" 
website. But the journals of many other military bloggers remain on the 
Web. Here are edited excerpts from the blogs of Americans serving with 
the U.S. military in Iraq.

A 'festering sore'

Lt. Col. David G. Bellon was commissioned as an officer in the Marine 
Corps in 1990 after graduating from law school. He remained on active 
duty until 1998, then continued as a reserve officer while building a 
law practice in Oceanside. In January 2003, he went to Iraq to serve in 
the infantry during the invasion. He returned home in September of last 
year and was sent back to Iraq in February 2004. Bellon, who is serving 
in the volatile Sunni Triangle, has a wife and two children, ages 4 and 
6. He hopes to be home by Christmas. His family maintains a website, , on which they post Bellon's letters to his 

Aug. 17, 2004

My regiment has been involved in a fight outside of Fallouja for the 
past week.

On August 9th, insurgents in the city kidnapped the two Iraqi National 
Guard battalion commanders within the city, subsequently killing at 
least one of them. It is another clear example of the savagery of the 
enemy here. The city is now without any coalition influence other than 
us. The local militia that was created as a solution to the April 
fighting has become a defensive army that is in collusion with the 
insurgents. The police are complicit with the enemy and the city is 
literally run by terrorists.

The Iraqi National Guard battalion commander who was killed was Lt. Col. 
Sulaiman Hamad Ftikan. We knew him as Sulaiman. He was the closest thing 
to a true patriot and leader we have found who is actually from the 
local Fallouja area. He was kidnapped and murdered because he had 
finally gotten his battalion to stand up to the criminals and insurgents 
who have had their run of the city all these months.

Of course his murder was not merciful. He was tortured and beaten to 
death. He was so disfigured by the torture that his friends could not 
bear to look at his body.

The city has continued to be an epicenter of terror and instability. 
With everything that I know, I cannot fathom a resolution of this 
problem that does not include us being allowed to take the city down 
once and for all. Time and space does not allow me to recount the 
horrible tales of torture and murder that have taken place inside this town.

The Marines, meanwhile, continue their heroics. I could share with you 
accounts of severely wounded Sailors and Marines insisting that they can 
still hold a weapon and are still "in the fight" and other lesser 
wounded Marines refusing to be evacuated. There are Marines who exit 
friendly lines every day and commit acts of untold bravery that would 
inspire you as much as they humble me.

The difference between now and April is that the majority of Iraqis that 
we meet now ask us to enter the city. They are tired of the lawless hell 
that exists inside the city and are literally willing to have us rubble 
it to save it. I know it sounds strange but it is the reality here.

We also have an entire battalion of Iraqi Special Forces soldiers who 
have stepped forward. We have trained these guys and they are a 
different breed of cat altogether. They don't necessarily love us but 
they now have a bond with the Marines and operate jointly with them 
everyday. They shake their head at the hesitancy to resolve Fallouja and 
are willing to fight inside the city. It will be a very tough fight but 
in the end I just don't see how we can move forward as a coalition, or 
Iraq as a fledgling country, while this festering sore remains open.

'Getting settled in'

Beth is a 28-year-old lab Navy lab technician with a husband and a 
1-year-old son named Cody back home. She arrived in Iraq late last 
month. Her blog, "A Labrat's Journey," is at .

August 30, 2004

Pretty good day

It was pretty calm yesterday and not too bad today. We are getting 
settled in and wondering when the others are coming. The group we are 
replacing can't wait to leave. For a short period of time, until the 
turnover, we have to double up in our rooms. The sunrise and sunsets are 
very pretty from here. That is about the only beautiful thing, though. 
The laundry is taking about five days to come back instead of overnight 
due to some people up and quitting. Last night they had lobster and 
steak for dinner. Everyone was so happy. Not quite my cup of tea, 
though. I ate a PowerBar. I am still leery of the food here but 
hopefully that changes — or I get lots of food in the mail. We have 
microwaves and can openers. I need a bowl with a lid. Got the webcam 
thing figured out and got to see Cody last night — made me cry for 
hours. He has already grown to be such a big boy, his hair is longer and 
he has gained weight.

Operation Chemlight

Paul Rieckhoff enlisted in the Army Reserves upon graduating from 
Amherst College in 1998. After completing an officer's training course 
in 2002, he volunteered for active duty. He was sent to Iraq in 2003 and 
was based in Baghdad for 10 months conducting combat operations. All 38 
members of Rieckhoff's platoon returned home safely. Now off active 
duty, the former first lieutenant has started Operation Truth, a 
"nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to educate the American 
public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the 
perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them firsthand." The 
following posting from Rieckhoff is one of many on his group's website, .

April 2003:

I sit down to take yet another irregular dump on our rickety, unstable, 
fly-infested "throne." A nice moment precariously situating my bum on 
the remnants of a folding chair. I become aware that our building has 
just reached minute 120 of our two hours of allotted electricity. Chunk! 
Darkness. The generator is down today — again — so there is no hope of 
waiting this one out. There is a lovely little waste basket of 
overflowing, used toilet paper and baby-wipes next to my size 11½ desert 
combat boots.

Sadly, I have prepared for this — knowing the grid rotation, we are not 
due power for another six sweltering hours. Therefore, most of us — the 
shrewd ones — always carry a flashlight in our cargo pockets. I have of 
course run out of batteries. But I have a back-up plan. The really 
cunning enemies of discomfort and inconvenience — like yours truly — 
also store a chemical light in those deep 
American-made-by-the-lowest-bidder pockets. Yes, one of those favorite 
little friends of soldiers and ravers worldwide — the orange chemlight!

I crack that sucker satisfyingly as the guy getting a haircut in the 
next room rants and someone elsewhere in the building stubs yet another 
toe on a weapon, or a helmet, or a private. I am sitting on a 
hollowed-out folding chair by orange artificial light hoping a 
super-sized rat doesn't decide to improve Iraqi-American relations at 
this precise moment in time. And I am strangely happy about it. They 
don't pay us enough for this I am sure.

We deserve a parade for having to endure this alone.

Speak, pause, response

Sean Pearce enlisted in the Army in 1998. He served six years in the 
Signal Corps as a satellite technician, with tours in Kandahar, 
Afghanistan, and at Camp Victory, the main U.S. military complex near 
Baghdad airport. He returned to the U.S. in September 2003. He now lives 
in Virginia, where he works in communications and plans to complete his 
college education. He has now married the girlfriend he writes about in 
this excerpt. His Iraq blog is at .

August 5, 2003

Tonight I got to talk to my girlfriend via visual teleconferencing. It 
went really well. I waited around until the middle of the night, and 
then I was escorted into the area where all the magic happens, past 
giant wall-sized television screens with maps and diagrams, past rows 
and rows of desks with computers and soldiers working around the clock 
on the war effort, and into the conference room, which was exactly that. 
I'm so used to seeing rooms and quarters converted into conference 
rooms. They are set up in kitchens or garages or boiler rooms. But this 
one was an honest-to-god conference room that I'm sure was used by 
Saddam and all of his buddies. Now it belongs to us, because we took it.

As I stroll in, the family of the sergeant who went before me is still 
on the giant screen. I see his wife trying desperately to keep her 
composure and get her three kids out of the room where they were filmed 
in an orderly fashion. Then, in the corner of the screen coming through 
the doorway is a very distorted shape that the camera is trying to focus 
on. It walks like my girlfriend. It's the same size as my girlfriend. 
And it is my girlfriend. She giggles, and I wave and smile.

I have to press a foot switch every time I want to speak so that the 
microphone turns off. Otherwise the delay will cause a killer echo. 
There is at least a 15-second delay that makes normal conversation 
useless. Speak. Pause. Pause. Pause. Pause. Response. But she is there 
and she can hear me and I can see her.

She's wearing the Curious George shirt I bought her on the Universal 
City Walk in L.A. It fits her perfectly, and her hair is beautiful. 
She's had three hair cuts since I left, but luckily she sends me 
pictures, so I stay up to date with the girlfriend fashions.

We have this silly thing that we do. It started one night when we were 
at a rave in L.A. To the beat, I say "girlfriend" while I nod my head. 
Then I say "run in place," which I do to the beat. It's a sign of my 
affection. So there I am, in Baghdad, Iraq, running in place in Saddam's 
conference room so that my girlfriend can watch me on the other side of 
the Earth.

I showed her my muscles, my big ol' arms that are twice the size as when 
I left. She was impressed — or she at least faked it for me. She's a 
good woman.

I left hating this place more then ever, but also feeling a bit more 
relaxed. I made it to my cot, and I sweated off into sleep. This is 
almost over.

The brave, the spider-men

Sean Dustman is a Navy medical corpsman who served for seven years 
during the 1990s, then reenlisted after Sept. 11 because he "realized my 
talents were going to waste, and I wanted to make a difference." He 
arrived in Iraq in March and returned home late last month. His blog can 
be found at

June 19, 2004

It's surprising how much wildlife we've run into. Every night we find a 
bigger camel spider, and the Marines gather around and say "Wow, that's 
the biggest one I've ever seen," which leads to other sorts of fights. 
They'll catch scorpions and other bugs and toss them in. They tossed a 
mouse in once and you could hear the cheering from hundreds of yards 
away. Marines are just big kids. Take them to a body of water, and 
they'll be happy skipping stones for hours; give them a magnifying 
glass, they'll find an ant hole. If they invade your country, expect 
silly stuff to be written on all the walls. We've run into snakes both 
venomous and non. I'm glad I was the only one that spotted the 
non-venomous one. I took its picture and let it go on it's way. I'm not 
much into killing things. Things I've found out? Scorpions do glow under 
black light. Camel spiders have ten legs and two eyes and are not even 
related to true spiders. And don't ever use a k-bar knife alone to kill 
a venomous snake.

'To do right by Allah"

Nicholas J. Cademartori is a 22-year-old infantryman with the Army's 1st 
Infantry Division. After four years in the National Guard, he asked to 
be released from his Guard contract so he could join the regular Army. 
He has been in Iraq since March. His blog can be found at .

May 7 and May 24, 2004

One thing I always notice about old war movies is that soldiers always 
attach a slang word to their enemy that has some negative connotations. 
In WWI and II, it was Kraut. Vietnam, it was the gooks. Out here, it is 
"Hadji," like in the old Jonny Quest cartoons. All people out here are 
Hadji. No malice to it: It is just what we call them.

The other day, a sergeant and I were told to take our truck and go and 
pull security. This is generally a very dull job (thank god). So we went 
out and were just sitting peacefully when we saw a middle aged Iraqi 
farmer in his field waving to us. Curious, I went to investigate while 
my buddy covered me with the 50 cal.

When I reached his field it became obvious that the man did not speak 
English. He was tall and thin, and smiled continuously. He had a small 
plot of land with a little shack off in the corner of the fields, and a 
slow shallow stream ran down the middle for irrigation. You could tell 
that this was this man's life, his entire livelihood.

He held a tomato out to me, it was not entirely ripe, and a little 
misshapen, but it appeared entirely edible. I took it, since it is rude 
here to refuse food. He seemed ecstatic about this, and hurriedly began 
rooting through his fields for ripe tomatoes.

Hadji vendors love to give you the product first, let you take a few 
bites, then give you the price. I took out all the money I had — one 
quarter — and offered it to him in exchange for five or six tomatoes, 
anything not to seem rude. He pushed aside my meager offering and 
offered me an eggplant.

Once I realized he didn't want money, I was very curious what he was 
doing. I mean, was this some kind of tribute he would pay to Iraqi 
soldiers under Saddam? Was he trying to bribe me to do something for 
him? He signed that he wanted me to try the tomato, and pointed to the 
brook and made washing gestures. I washed myself a little and the 
tomato, then gave it a shot, eating it like it was an apple. It was 

By this point he had collected up quite a batch of tomatoes and an 
eggplant in his robe, and he wanted to take them over to my truck for my 
buddy. I asked if he was sure he didn't want any money. He shook his 
head and pointed up. "For Allah?" I said, and he nodded and said 
"Allah." He was doing it to be a good man. To do right by Allah. By this 
simple act, he touched me deeply. He gave me faith in the people of 
Iraq. He let me know that what we have done here is appreciated, and 
that these people and I are not so far apart.

I will never believe that my enemy is unredeemable. I will never believe 
that all Iraqis are the enemy. But I can have no faith in man untested, 
and truth be told, I have never gotten a truly unselfish vibe from 
anyone in this country no matter where I've been. They want desperately 
to take advantage of soldiers' paychecks. But this man living in a shack 
off the main road has become the first Iraqi I have met since coming 
here who didn't. And I hope to God that we don't let him down.

Daddy & son

Army Pfc. Brian McGovern ( ) has been 
serving as a paralegal near Baghdad since June. His first child, 
Vincent, was born July 9. McGovern will see him for the first time this 
week, when he starts a 15-day leave.

July 27, 2004

I heard "Cat's in the Cradle" this afternoon, the song by Harry Chapin. 
It's that song that talks about how a guy had a kid and put off spending 
time with him. Eventually, the kid grows up to be just like him, never 
finding the time to hang out and have a good time as father and son.

One of the things that we had planned to do was, every Saturday I would 
let my wife sleep in and wheel the baby in the stroller up to the coffee 
shop and have some daddy & son bonding time. It's kinda sappy, but it 
tore me up to hear that song today, because I'm thinking, "But I would 
spend time with my son if I could! I promise!" I was raised by some 
great parents. My dad had (still has, in fact) a job where he'd have to 
go out of town quite a bit, but never for more than a few days. My 
favorite childhood memories were of Saturdays, when my dad and I would 
go do stuff.

I want to be the kind of father that my dad has been to me. There are so 
many guys who get women pregnant and just take off. And here I am, 
wanting nothing more than to be there, and can't.

Code normal

Koka Sexton, who was a team leader in the 341st Military Police Company 
>from San Jose, enlisted in the Army Reserves because he believes "that 
everyone should do something to support their country." He got his call 
to go to Iraq on Feb. 14, 2003, and "by June 1 was in the desert 
realizing that the Army Reserves was more than one weekend a month." He 
posted the following to his blog, "A Walk Through the Valley of the 
Shadow of Death,"( after arriving back home earlier 
this summer.

August 1, 2004

Getting back to feeling normal is harder than it sounds. What is normal? 
I can barely remember what my life was like before I left for Iraq. I 
have memories of loved ones and friends that carried me through the hard 
times overseas but other than that, most of pre-war life is a blur. I 
find myself walking through the city waiting for the next gun shot or 
explosion. Driving a car is still an adventure. For no reason whatsoever 
I have moments where I feel like a coiled spring ready to snap. Tension 
building up in every muscle preparing for the chance to explode on what 
stands in my way. Neurotic? Maybe.

I miss my rifle and the security that it gave me when I was walking 
through unknown areas. I knew in Iraq that my life was in my hands. As 
long as I was prepared for the attack, I had a chance to get them before 
they got me. I'm always thinking about the "what if" now, because in 
Iraq preparing for the "what if" made me better able to deal with the 
next roadside bomb or rocket being fired in my direction. Being prepared 
could make the difference between life and death. Not that I have the 
same concerns now that I am home, but my mind races with other concerns 
of safety.

One day at a time, I keep telling myself. Then I laugh. Maybe I should 
make a personal threat indicator that I carry in my pocket and update it 
as I feel necessary. Today, I feel Orange.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

Olivier Minkwitz___________________________________________
HSFK Hessische Stiftung für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
PRIF Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Leimenrode 29 60322 Frankfurt a/M Germany
Tel +49 (0)69 9591 0422  Fax +49 (0)69 5584 81                         pgpKey:0xAD48A592
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